Since the project was funded, we held meetings with the leaders of survivors and reviewed our strategic plan in relation to alternative livelihood for survivors of trafficking. Activities included reviewing the roles of the leaders within the food-catering project and enhancing their skills through training, brainstorming marketing strategies in order to get more customers among non-profit organizations and allies, finding more sources of organic raw food, and an inventory of our utensils and equipment.
Since June, we were able to get eight new non-profit groups as regular customers. We served food in these organizations’ meetings, conferences and trainings. The feedbacks from the customers have been overwhelmingly positive.
They appreciated first and foremost the taste of the food, secondly, the fact that we don’t serve pork and beef and that we don’t use any artificial flavoring, and thirdly, that we get our vegetables and rice directly from producers. The said organizations became regular customers.
Because of additional customers, we needed to procure additional utensils to be able to serve a bigger population.
We were able to employ four additional women, on top of the eight previous ones. The women were very thankful for being able to augment their families’ income and for having a source of living that is not sexually exploitative, as was the sex industry where they came from.
Risks and challenges
As some of the women survivors still have pending cases against perpetrators, such as traffickers and police who violate the women, we had to support their legal fights in court. As such, we are compelled to also financially support these, not only morally and technically.
Some of the women we are helping also leave for their provinces, thus while there was an increase in number of those employed, there were those who left in the middle of the operations. This caused instability in our operations, and we have to immediately enhance the skills of alternate workers. Oftentimes, CATW-AP staff members have to take on operational tasks left behind by survivors.
We have decided then to use the survivor’s office as base of operations, where food preparation, cooking and storage of utensils/equipment take place.
The cooperative leadership also had to change its composition.
One of the workers, who has been in the sex industry for nine years, shared: "It's a good feeling because the project helped in our daily expenses." Meanwhile, the survivor who manages the cooperative, wrote: “I am very thankful for the trust and the opportunity that was given to me, because even if I am lacking in education, through the catering project, I am able to sharpen my mind in financial matters, in marketing. I know that my skills are still not enough to be able to handle the project very efficiently. But I will keep on learning. I learned a lot in cooking, whereas before I did not know anything about cooking."
We will continue to get more customers among non-profit organizations, as well as law groups, to whom we were sometimes referred by non-profits.
We will also continue to systematize the cooperative, its organizational documents and structures.
More women survivors of trafficking will be trained in managing a food catering business, in cooking and serving food. Towards this, we will continue to organize in the streets where many women are trafficked. We regularly go to the streets of Quezon City and in the communities to visit the women, discuss their issues, conduct healing conversations, and hold educational sessions. By the end of the year, we will hold our in-depth evaluation of the project, as well as review our plans.
Given that the obstacles above included assisting the women in their legal cases, we had to dedicate some of the operational budget towards this. As we have decided to keep the office as base of operations, instead of a restaurant, rental of the survivor's office was the one supported. This is where trainings were also held.
Amount spent so far
Rental of Food Business Venue
Yes, we were featured in Cosmopolitan magazine, Sept. 2013 issue, in their "Cosmo Commits" feature.
The scanned pages of the magazine were attached as photos. See the page where the story of "Lynette" appears. "Lynette" was the name used for the woman survivor managing the food business. Her words were in Filipino, so here is the translation: "I am happy with what I do now. My main focus right now is to help my sisters, and to show them that to rebuild their lives is not a distant possibility." On page 139, you will see quotes from the CATW-AP's Executive Director Jean Enriquez, which includes these words: "But in fact, these survivors of trafficking are not different from you and me, and any other woman. What we want in life, what we're willing to work hard for, that's what the survivors of sex trafficking also want."